By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington baseball faced a pair of litmus tests this past week when it took on Berlin and Greenwich at home. The Redcoats were eighth in the state media poll entering the week, and the Cardinals were from a premiere conference.
Southington passed both tests, but did so in different ways. Southington pulled away for an 8-1 win over Berlin and rallied for two mercy-rule victories over Tolland (14-0) and Greenwich (12-2). The Knights owned a 5-0 record when the week ended.
Southington found itself in early trouble against Berlin on April 9. The Redcoats used two errors sandwiched around a hit batsman in the top of the second inning to load the bases with two outs. Coach Charlie Lembo said the errors happen, especially early in the season with the fields not in optimal shape.
“Those are going to happen, you just have to limit the damage from them,” Lembo said.
Knight starter Jake Neuman got a fly out to Andrew Paradis in center field to escape the jam and keep the game scoreless.
“You get out of that inning without giving up a run, and then all of a sudden, the dugout’s energized, the players are more energized, then we start stringing hits together,” Lembo said.
Those hits came in the bottom of the third inning. Jake DelMonte singled to lead off, then Jack Meade tripled him home for a 1-0 lead. RBI singles from Jake Romano and Bryce Worth put Southington ahead, 3-0. An RBI single from Billy Carr in the fourth made it 4-0. The Knights added two more runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Meade and Worth each had three hits and three RBI.
Neuman gave up one hit and one hit batter in five innings of work for the win. Neuman earned that fifth inning with a quick fourth. Nico Gaudio and Vinny Spizzoucco each threw an inning of relief, something that Lembo said made him happy.
“All these guys can contribute, and that’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we’ve been preaching,” Lembo said. “We may take you out of the lineup. It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong, we just got guys that we want to get in there and see what they can do. We feel confident with any name on our roster that we put on that lineup card.”
Ryan Henderson shut Tolland out for four innings on April 10, then Brendan Kavanaugh came on for a scoreless frame of his own. On offense, Romano had a double, two runs scored and three RBI. Carr tallied a hit, three runs scored, two stolen bases and two RBI while Neuman singled, drove in two runs and scored another run.
Paradis (double) and Worth each had two hits, a run scored and a run batted in. DelMonte and Nico Gaudio each had a hit and RBI.
Southington was back home on April 13 for a game against Greenwich, one that wasn’t a given to be played because of rain that had fallen the previous day.
“Unless you’ve got a school vacation or you’re going to play a night game, what are you going to do?” Lembo said. “Them getting here, or us getting there, it’s basically got to be done on a Saturday, and we have three more Saturdays in a row with games. We just wanted to get it in, and again, the maintenance guys did such a great job.”
Southington and Greenwich got the game in, and they were locked in a 2-2 tie entering the bottom of the sixth inning. Jason Krar’s pitching (6 innings, 2 runs, 7 hits, 5 strikeouts) was the reason why the Cardinals only had two runs on the board.
“He did a great job, and he kept battling through some of our mistakes, and we made a few,” Lembo said.
Krar coming back out for the seventh inning was up in the air, but the Knight bats made it a moot point. Romano led off with a walk, then Kyle Leifert singled. Worth bunted toward third, but Romano beat the throw to the bag, loading the bases. Romano scored on a wild pitch to give Southington a 3-2 lead. The floodgates opened with DelMonte’s two-run single, which made the score 5-2. Meade followed with a two-run single, then Paradis doubled to make it 8-2. An error by the Berlin center fielder brought in another run for a 9-2 advantage.
Berlin finally got an out, but Romano’s RBI single put Southington ahead 10-2. Leifert had an RBI single to bring the advantage to 11-2, then Worth’s sacrifice fly scored the run that invoked the mercy rule.
During a pitching change, Lembo was at the dugout going through defensive changes for the top of the seventh inning, which wound up being unnecessary.
“The kids were all here, they knew what the score was, they knew how many runs they needed to end the game,” Lembo said. “They said we’re not going back out defensively.”
Paradis wound up with two doubles, two RBI and two runs scored while Romano had two singles and two RBI. DelMonte and Meade both had two RBI. Carr scored two runs for the Knights.
Up next: Southington was scheduled to host Glastonbury on Tuesday in a battle of undefeated teams. The Knights were on the road Wednesday at Farmington, then away against Notre Dame-West Haven on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Quigley Stadium.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com